12mens_bracketWest

The CBT Bracket Breakdown: West Region

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See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 Michigan State: Here’s a crazy stat for you: Tom Izzo has had a No. 1 seed in East Lansing three times in his career — 1999, 2000 and 2001. Thats right. This is the first time in 11 years that Izzo had has a No. 1 seed. There’s a reason that everyone talks about him as the best tournament coach in the country. What I like about the Spartans this season is that they are the perfect team for the style he likes to play. They defend, they rebound and they are led by the player with the bluest collar in the country in Draymond Green. Losing Branden Dawson hurts, but they still won the Big Ten Tournament without him.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Missouri: The Tigers were sensational all season long because of how difficult it is to matchup with them with Kim English at the four. That is going to make them a tough team to prepare for. The Tigers also have arguably the best perimeter attack in the country, led by Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon. The one issue I see is that the teams in Missouri’s way actually match up with them fairly well — Florida and Marquette are both just as versatile.

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Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 12 Long Beach State: LBSU has one of the best point guards in the country at any level in Casper Ware. He’s going to be an NBA player. Mark it down now. And he’s not alone — TJ Robinson is a double-double machine, James Ennis is a terrific athlete and Michael Caffey is going to be a great player in the Big West. The question for LBSU is going to be whether or not Larry Anderson is healthy. He’s their best defender.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 8 Memphis: I’m a bit upset with the fact that Memphis got an eight seed. Not because it wasn’t deserved — hey, you want a better seed, then win more games — but because the Tigers are playing some great basketball right now. Will Barton is an all-american, Wesley Witherspoon is finally playing hard and Joe Jackson looks like the Joe Jackson we all expected from day one. The problem? They have a date with Michigan State scheduled in the round of 32.

source: AP

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: If you haven’t seen Canaan play, you are doing yourself a disservice. He can flat out score, and while he’s not on the level of Jimmer, he’s close. He’s one of the best shooters in the country and he’s not opposed to firing away from 25 feet off the dribble. When he’s hot, watch out.

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): Scott Machado, Iona: I don’t think that Iona was deserving of getting into the tournament, but the fact that they did is not a bad thing. They can score with any team in the country, and it’s because they have Machado running the show. He’s up there with Kendall Marshall when it comes to players that are worth watching because of their ability to pass the ball.

Best potential matchup: No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 3 Marquette: I can’t stress how much fun this matchup would be. Marquette is one of the few teams in the country that is as versatile as Missouri. The Tigers would be in big trouble if this matchup comes to fruition because Jaw Crowder is big enough to take advantage of the matchup with Kim English inside but athletic enough to stay with him on the perimeter. Both teams play pressuring defense and can get out and run the floor. Marcus Denmon and Darius Johnson-Odom are two of the best two-guards in the country.

So who is getting upset?:

– New Mexico is capable of beating Michigan State. They can really defend and they have a number of shooters on the perimeter. I didn’t have space to write about the Lobos here, but they are really, really good.

– I think Florida can knock off Missouri in the second round. Both have terrific guards and play a similar style offensively. Also, Florida is perfectly comfortable putting Brad Beal at the four and putting a lineup on the floor that is similar to Missouri’s.

– The pod Murray State is playing in is in Louisville. Can the Racers and Isaiah Canaan get to the Sweet 16? Can they beat Marquette?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Richmond announces change to European trip itinerary

Chris Mooney - UR
AP Photo/Skip Rowland
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With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.

The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.

“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”

It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.

Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.

July Live Period Superlatives: Who impressed during the most important recruiting months?

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For much of the last three weeks, the nation’s best high school players have been jet-setting across the country — and the world — as they showcased what they can do in front of college coaches everywhere from North Augusta, S.C., to Las Vegas.

Here are the players that stood out the most:

MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Michael Porter Jr.

In a close call, I’m going with the future Washington Husky, Michael Porter Jr.

After an unstoppable Peach Jam in which he helped MoKan Elite win the event by completely dominating, Porter was one of the key players in helping the USA U18 team win the FIBA Americas as the team’s leading scorer.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Some have questioned Porter’s toughness, but he’s been a tenacious rebounder from the wing all spring and summer and he’s nearly impossible to contain off the bounce. When his perimeter jumper is going, Porter is an advanced three-level scorer who can make getting buckets look easy on some very difficult moves. In three bracket games at Peach Jam, Porter averaged 29.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting insane splits (68% FG, 93% FT, 56% 3PT).

BEST GUARD: Trae Young

Part of the reason that Porter was so good during Peach Jam is that he had Trae Young beside him on MoKan. A 6-foot-1 guard with deep shooting range on pull-ups, Young is underrated as a setup guy as his aggressive scoring capabilities open up a lot of offense for his teammates. Also a member of the USA U18 team that won gold with Porter, if Young shoots it that efficiently from three-point range in the future, he’ll be in the discussion among the best guards in the class.

They were good, too

  • Trevon Duval: The point guard with the most potential in 2017, Duval had a tough time finishing at the rim but still showed incredible athleticism and a warrior’s mentality.
  • Collin Sexton: After winning MVP of the FIBA U17 World Championships and a gold medal with USA Basketball, Sexton tore up the circuit and showed incredible intensity and scoring capabilities.

BEST WING: Gary Trent, Jr.

When Gary Trent Jr. takes the court, he wants to completely destroy you. No five-star player went as consistently hard as Trent did during the month of July and that is coming after Trent spent a month away from home winning gold with USA Basketball in Spain at the FIBA U17 World Championships. There were times in Vegas that opposing coaches and teams knew what moves were coming and Trent would still score on them. He’s a cold-blooded scorer who always brings intensity.

They were good, too

  • Hamidou Diallo: The high-flying guard can get a lot done on both ends of the floor and his upside might be among highest in the class.
  • Brian Bowen: Scoring the ball well and rebounding from the wing was the 6-foot-7 wing from Michigan, who looked unstoppable at times during July.

BEST BIG: DeAndre Ayton

If anyone beats Porter as the best player of July it is Ayton. The 7-footer was incredible during certain moments of Peach Jam in helping lead California Supreme to the final four as he beat Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter and Mitchell Robinson in consecutive games.

With soft touch, a workable jumper and the kind of quick hops that get rim easy dunks and rebounds, Ayton is the best long-term prospect in this class because of how well he moves for his size while also owning a good skill level. Ayton has a desire to play in college and hopefully he’ll get the chance because he has a shot to be one of the best big men college basketball has seen in the last decade.

They were good, too

  • Wendell Carter: The 6-foot-10 center was good at Peach Jam and closed out strong by helping Team CP3 win The Eight in Las Vegas.
  • Mitchell Robinson: This 7-footer changes directions and runs like a guard and is the best shot blocker in the country. I haven’t seen one guy block this many three-pointers since Anthony Davis.
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike

BIGGEST STOCK RISER: Malik Williams

Indiana native Malik Williams is an interesting story because he was the only top 40 Class of 2017 player who didn’t play in a shoe-company league this spring. After a July in which the 6-foot-11 Williams made perimeter moves, blocked shots and rebounded his entire area, he looked like a five-star lock who should be in serious consideration for the All-American games. Williams is undoubtedly talented enough for those distinctions, but he also needs to prove himself more against the elite big men of the Class of 2017 before we know how good he can really be.

Some of the best college basketball programs in the country like Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Purdue — among many others — are making Williams a priority recruit.

They impressed, too

  • Chuma Okeke: Auburn just snagged this top-60 wing forward on Monday and he’s coming off a monster July. A versatile wing who can handle and score, Okeke can also rebound well from the wing.
  • Nick Weatherspoon: The younger brother of Mississippi State freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon is making a name for himself as a 6-foot-1 playmaking guard who can really score.

FOUR NON-ELITE NAMES WITH NBA POTENTIAL

  • Derek Culver: The 6-foot-10 native of Ohio is an intriguing talent because of his size, athleticism and passing ability.
  • Brandon Randolph: A smooth scorer with good size at 6-foot-6, Randolph hit 40 percent of his threes at Peach Jam and can fill it up from deep.
  • Chaundee Brown: One of the most efficient scorers at Peach Jam, the 6-foot-5 guard can also pull down rebounds with the best of them.
  • Jordan Goodwin: Undoubtedly one of the toughest dudes in the country, this Marcus Smart-type guard is improving his jumper but he’s a warrior with everything else.
Trae Young, Jon Lopez/Nike
Trae Young, Jon Lopez/Nike

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.

VIDEO: Watch Virginia freshman Jay Huff dunk from the free throw line

Tony Bennett
AP Photo/Nell Redmond
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Jay Huff is a member of Tony Bennett’s best recruiting class to date, a 6-foot-11 top 50 recruit from North Carolina.

He also happens to be pretty athletic.

Don’t believe me?

Check out this video that McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy tweeted out on Sunday night:

Yup, that’s Huff taking off from the foul line to dunk.

Not bad, young fella.